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Thoughts of Myrddin Emrys

by Jussi Melartin

part 1 of 2

In homage to John Matthews’ The Song of Arthur.

The shape put upon us
when we arrive on Earth
carries its patterns.
And the shapes we put
upon ourselves, the guises
we wear, also have their
steps encased, ones we
must follow through sorrow
or joy, whilst that shape
is still upon our being.

Perhaps enough joy has he
had, the children of his loins,
when the land beckoned him
and he pressed his flesh against
her, the pattern begun, the
service owed. But another shape
is on him, one that bends him
to knowing through sorrow,
the husbanding of others to
blossom in the warm days of
summer, the shape of seer,
his wounds crying out their
solace in the healing of others,
to be wounded again, spear
point to the thigh, howl to the
wind. Mayhaps this shape is
but the other, his pleasure on
record, his payment ongoing.

For he had once been King, this
land the Queen who selected him,
who whispered the bee dances in
his ears, the throb of the join
through his sinew, the recognition
of purpose rung through being.
The night became close as he
cocooned like a grub in Her yard,
heard the call, and could only
follow. Yet time split then, the
willed and the fated branched,
but he plowed the earth faithfully
and well, husbanded and guided,
was guided and consoled through
the seasons. He called the fates then,
at moments of anguish, perhaps
not fully understanding the stakes.
These pleasures are not long lasting
blooms, but must be tended and
renewed lest they fade, yet fade
they must, in this play of shapes.

The life willed became his fate,
the fated willed aside, yet the
patterns were unchanged, the
wheels turned with the seasons.

I think of Myrddin Emrys now and
then, did his wisdom and knowing
cloak deep sorrow, the fate of
advisors everywhere, their pleasures
second-hand, the glory feeling hollow
in its gaining, and in the end subject
to the same falls and fates that are
the heritance of us all. For the shape
of Woman, and the shape of Man,
are so constructed that for all the
enjoyment possible in their dance
they also have power to hurt, each
pattern so natural to one poison to
the other, and to the one who must
stand aside, sorrow is not recompensed
by the comedy between them.

I believe Myrddin yearned with all his
heart, loved in all his being, sought the
Earth with full lust, and cried behind
his beard with all the disappointments
and sorrows. He was never salved,
his pains rarely slaked for long, his
yearning a constant goad, thence
his wisdom, here the source of the
brook that nourished the plants so.
Oh how he wished for the cool
touch of a woman’s hand, for the
long slender fingers on his brow,
for a woman to want him for herself,
instead of the admiration and advice
--advice!-- given him by the damsels,
that surely there was someone for
him, someone who would love him,
only not herself (and how true that did
become, eventually, but that belongs
in another story, of how Myrddin
at last in old age found love).
It was Arthur and the Knights, the
Queen Gwenhwyfar and the others
who danced, painfully yea, yet
within their shapes gaining the
quiet afternoons, together with
their loves, whilst Myrddin was
bent over a book or a globe in
his chamber, longing an ache
in his bones, a sigh the only sound.

The Woman, she turns towards
attention that does not fawn, yet
sees her as she is, a flower, an
unfolding, beauty and wisdom,
full of Moon’s mystery and the
Sun’s glow on her shape. Yet
fickle she seems, a matter of
pride and of holding her mystery,
and when the bloom comes,
she will turn, intoxicated with
the possibilities, drinking in
scents from all directions, and
why she chooses one way or
another is never truly known.
Unlike a man, she will not again
acknowledge what passed,
because she is Loyal and the
Queen, the Mistress of her
Abode. The Man, on his part,
may act like a pig, taking over
all space and marking it as
his. A man will also turn to
attention, but he will fall to the
fawn, he will allow false shapes
upon him, and in his choosing
he may be careful, but cruel.
(Yet in cruelty, a woman crossed
has no peer.) A good man will
seek to give a woman his attention,
seeing as she is yet he does not
seek to tear her down, mystified
by her mystery he too may worship
the Moon. He will not give the whole
of him, he cannot and still be a man,
and on this blade he must stand:
giving his all and holding back
of himself both will cause his
woman to seethe. Yes each gender
through the very pattern that attracts
so also shall cause each other pain.


“Again and again the great bard [Taliesin] speaks of the Wood, and from his own words and those of the little monk who was the first collector of these tales, I have learned that it was far more than a simple stretch of trees of which he spoke. Even in the seclusion of Ynys Witrin I have heard whispers of Broceliande, the forest that once covered most of Britain. Long ago it was destroyed, or simply faded from the knowledge of humankind, yet men still speak of it in whispers and make the sign of the horns against ill luck when they do so. I must confess that I do not truly understand these matters, yet I believe the when he speaks of the Wood, the bard speaks not of any place but a state of being, such as the Blessed Saints themselves aspire to.”

— John Matthews, The Song of Arthur

These ancient forms still reach from beyond the scope of words to touch us, form us and our acts into destined patterns we may but dimly be aware of. The Wood is long gone, yet even now men and women are called, and follow the various pathways into the mysterious light of this vast Forest. Always enchanted, the experience may be of the Waste Land, or of a teeming fecundity with greenery and flowing water, or both, or of something else entirely. Aye, we still meet at that clearing the challenge of a foreign knight, the Queen yet walks in the glades, and the Stag appears in the distance, drawing us further into a wilderness.

Perhaps this calls back to a time before tales were told, when words themselves were barely formed and we wandered across plains and caves, following the herds or the water, when the Land spoke directly, in Her own manner, and we listened, unlike now when our own prattle drowns out Her voice. Aye, the patterns of us were then set, ones we fall into as our natural heritage. A clan troops across field to forest and river, falling into familiar pattern: the leader and his lieutenants, the band with women and children busy with their burdens, squawking and joking amongst themselves, and there — there! — you may see one slightly apart, to the rear and the right of the troop, eyes alert to changes and motions, ready to sound warning or direct attention of the others. This one, removed as he is to perform his duty, is not the leader, who must lead with the hearts of his clan, nor is he the wise old woman who is connected through kinship and birth-giving to all the band. No, his is the knowing, the borders of the clan, not fully in yet not fully out.

To the Forest then, we of the chattering mouths, each on our quest, or on another’s, until we come face upon such deep mystery, of sorrow and joy, that even our tongues become stilled, if only for a moment.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2006 by Jussi Melartin

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